Mitchell Camera Corp. Articles

Serial Number Introduction

By Ed Johnson

In the past, there has been secrecy regarding information about Mitchell Cameras production statistics. This may have been acceptable when a small number of persons and organizations owned these cameras. However, the fact that these historical cameras are increasingly becoming public collector items has changed this dynamic. Some of that secrecy ends here to benefit all collectors, sellers as well as the buying public.

These graphs results are the product of a fairly long and tortured hobby horse of a project. It all started with the Mitchell Standards and an attempt to apply available serial numbers into a basic product lifetime statistical model. Originally, I had two graphs: one for the early Mitchells which are commonly referred to as "Standards" and another for the ubiquitous "Government Cameras." That changed when I discovered a Standard and a GC with sequential serial numbers! Suddenly more numbers made sense.

It soon became apparent when numbering these in sequence from 1920 onwards to the end of the 1970's, that Mitchell considered all these cameras to be the same basic camera with merely slight variations, not different models. Physical proof of this fact is my GC #1167. It currently operates and functions correctly sitting on an early #256 "L" base. As supplication to those who will decry labeling all these as "Standards" in the Mitchell Registry, we will note the variations as a camera "style."

Historical resources from past issues of The American Cinematographer magazines helped refine the chart as did a few assumptions factoring in the Great Depression, camera use as a research and communications tool in WW2 and into missile development. Atomic testing and the space race also affected the graph. Looking at the very bottom graph which is my fully combined graph for all models (labeled NC Camera Production) you gain an interesting historic perspective on the industry as well as the company in relation to the times.

As noted at the top right of each graph, serial numbers will occasionally differ from the actual sales dates. As I neared the end of my research, a number of individuals with access to those parts of the records, provided me much aid to steer me through places where logic did not apply. Although some years changed and the graph flexed a bit, a surprising collection of numbers were either correct for a year end or at least very close. Early in the process of that vetting it was agreed that production listings would follow a linear progression regardless of cameras that were sold out of sequence. Which turned out to be normally less than a few months into the next year.

Credits to the following people and organizations who contributed and vetted these graphs:
  • Richard Bennett of Cinema Engineering
  • Alan Gordon Enterprises
  • Mark Pollito
And others who wished to not be named at this time but know of my appreciation.

Total Production Graph

Below is the graph for production figures which include the Mitchell Standard in red, the Mitchell BNC in blue and the Mitchell NC in black. To see these cameras with productions numbers within the graph, just scroll down.

Mitchell Camera Corporation

Standard Camera Production

The graph for the Mitchell Standard Camera appears below. Note the production figures are indicated with the red line.

Mitchell Camera Corporation

BNC Camera Production

The BNC's have a much smaller sample but have the most surviving or recorded instances. Their production was not as affected by historical factors and were relatively easy to place. The BNC production figures are indicated by the blue line and it overlays the red line of the Standard production figures.

Mitchell Camera Corporation

NC Camera Production

The NC's were the last to be charted. It was achieved mainly through the help of one generous individual who gifted the relevant data used to build this graph. The NC production figures are indicated by the black line and overlay both the Standard and BNC production lines. And this is our all models combined graph.

Mitchell Camera Corporation

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